OBSERVER COLUMN: The real story behind the NHS


I’ve mentioned the Hospital programme on BBC2 before; each week it has shown the real story behind the NHS and hopefully our MPs have been able to take note of what really goes on behind the scenes. Last week’s show, however, brought into sharp focus the ‘problems’ which can be encountered when people from abroad fall ill in this country and take advantage of the fact that they can receive treatment at our hospitals without having to show they have insurance.

In most of the cases shown last week there appears to have been very little payment made for the service they received. It is commonly known that visitors can receive treatment with no problem: that becomes serious, however, if they don’t have travel insurance and they are then presented with a bill which could be hundreds of thousands of pounds.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that this service should be withheld. However, shouldn’t visitors from outside the EU be asked on arrival if they have this insurance? If not, wouldn’t it be possible to inform them they must get it as soon as possible and show proof before being admitted to the country?

Do you not think our local council is fast becoming a laughing stock? We’ve had elected councillors changing horse in mid-stream, the council delegating money raising to a committee instead of doing it themselves, and there’s still repercussions from the (lack of) Christmas lights.

Never mind: the town will have the opportunity of changing things at the next borough elections. Won’t we? Well, if we reflect back on previous years, when there have been demands and promises that we will have a new ‘lot’ in power next time – no! The electors just elect the same old tired faces and we start the whole process again!

* Observer is not a paid-for member of staff, but an independent voice in Boston.